The Japanese photographer Honda Koji shoots architecture in a very similar manner as how people’s portraits are made. Not only does he engage the subject into the photography, the presence of the surrounding environment and the frozen ambiance between the photographer and the subject are as well vividly captured.
Koji’s grandfather gave him a camera as present when he was a student. He used it to shoot various architectures. Back in the days, the technique of using wide-angle lens to give a small space a wide thorough view was made popular by the Japanese New Architecture Magazine. Regardless of its popularity, Koji found the style unnatural, as the whole space was forced into the image without being accompanied by the surrounding atmosphere, lights and the movement of air. The insistence to capture the actual surrounding is the aesthetic that guides Koji when making both interior and portrait photography.
Influenced by his father who is a practitioner in the architecture field, Honda Koji naturally applied for the school of architecture when entering university, however he ended up working in a travel agency upon graduation and spent an entire year traveling after quitting the job. Many may find him lacking career direction, but Koji found his dream during his wandering days — the encounter with a commercial photographer gave him the idea of presenting his knowledge and experience in architecture and traveling using photography as a medium. After returning to Japan, Koji had been an apprentice to the two famous commercial photographers, Hirofumi Nagano who specializes in doing portraits for young females, and Akio Tomori who was first an interior stylist before becoming a photographer.
“It is simply amazing to work with help readily offered by other professionals, when you know work is not to be finished in solitude. It is also great to always know exactly for whom you’re working. The joy of seeing your work displayed in books, newspaper or public space is simply impeccable. Still, the biggest satisfaction comes with the interaction with all the with extraordinary people, objects, space and ideas,” explained Honda Koji for why he prefers commercial to fine art photography.
Hirofumi Nagano taught Koji the basic skills of becoming a commercial photographer, including the photography technique, the skill to communicate with clients, as well as how to submit the final work; on the other hand, Akio Tomari taught him how to shoot with film camera, to develop the films, along with other techniques. Apart from the technical knowledge, he also learned from them the mindset of being a photographer. “They taught me to cherish occasional incidents, to believe in the moment, and to consider work ethic before the quality of work. I have gained a lot from the two photographers.”
After he started working as an independent photographer, Honda Koji’s first job was to shoot for the Marubeni Corporation newsletter. His current clients include the sports brand Asics Tiger, Dancyu magazine, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Isetan Department Store. While many photographers separate consignment jobs from personal works on their website, Koji prefers not to distinguish the two types of works. “I do not want to put a distinction between the two. It would be ideal if both my commercial works and personal works share the same vibe. I wish to retain my personality in the consignment jobs, although they may consist other elements.”
Koji believes he is still exploring his style of photography; the Madori project which he began while still working as Hirofumi Nagano’s assistant is exactly part of this exploration. In Madori, there are photographs on architecture and space. “I studied architecture and urban planning in university, it helped to develop my particular interest in the presentation of space. Through this project, I wish to document such presentation by means of photography. Eventually, I realized the Madori project could be the core of my personal style, therefore I decided to continue with it. The project also made me understand shooting inanimate objects is not at all different from shooting people.”
In the foreword of Madori, the book which archives his project, Koji writes, “Every moment is unique, I treat it with respect and try to slowly get close to it. I adore any instance that moves me. I also embrace ambiance created between me and the subject of photography.” As a photographer, Koji treats any subject of photography, be it human or simply a space, in the same manner. As an audience, we are allowed to witness the beautiful dynamics of how the subject of photography affects its surrounding, precisely because he “[embraces] ambiance created between me and the subject of photography”.